Evanston Public Library to host fundraising event to help rebuild three Haitian libraries

Grace Johnson

Though the wave of publicity surrounding humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti has subsided, Evanston organizations continue to work to help the country more than a year after a 7.0 earthquake devastated it.

An event at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., on March 20 will help to feature the efforts of local librarians and community members to rebuild earthquake-ravaged libraries in Haiti. The event is presented together with Northwestern’s One Book One Northwestern program.

The fundraising project, the Haiti Library Relief Fund, is sponsored by the American Library Association. The project aims to raise enough money to rebuild, renovate and provide resources to three libraries in Haiti, said Michael Dowling, the director of the international and chapter relations offices of the ALA.

“When the earthquake first happened, a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid was flowing to Haiti,” Dowling said. “All of the pieces of civil society, including libraries, need to get up and running again. Citizens need to go back to what they were doing.”

Deborah Lazar, a librarian at New Trier Township High School, works at the grassroots level of the project. Lazar became involved with the people of Haiti before the earthquake on a service trip with the high school. She began working with ALA when she heard the earthquake had destroyed a library in a community she had visited.

Some people ask her why she is working to rebuild libraries instead of other resources, she said.

“I’ve learned that the people there have such a passion for culture and education,” Lazar said. “Libraries are fundamental to them.”

The Haiti Library Relief Fund raised approximately $35,000 in the project’s first year, Dowling said. While it was short of the total amount needed, it was enough money to prepare land and designs for the three libraries in Haiti, Dowling said.

“It’s important for us to get the libraries up and running as soon as possible,” he said.

Lazar said she wishes the Haiti crisis was still imminent in the minds and hearts of the world.

“Unless there’s an immediate crisis, Haiti isn’t on the minds of the majority of people,” Lazar said. “You don’t see it on the news anymore.”

The event on March 20 aims to spark fundraising efforts in the Evanston community while educating the public on Haitian culture.

One Book became involved in the event, “Rebuilding Haiti’s Libraries, Rebuilding Dreams,” to enrich the programming this year, which focuses on Dr. Paul Farmer’s medical relief work in Haiti.

“I’m making it into a cultural event, too, with Haitian food,” Lazar said. “I want to celebrate Haiti as a beautiful country.”

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